Taking Step Zero

Version I 6/9/2000

All rights reserved by the Big Book Bunch,

NOTICE This is not an official site of, nor does it represent, Alcoholics Anonymous.  You may contact A.A. at Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. 


We are the Big Book Bunch group of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our origins are the Students of the Big Book group, which has met in Woodland Hills, California since December of 1985. Our goals are to live the spiritual process through which sobriety is obtained and enhanced, and to publish (at no charge) our experience for other recovering alcoholics. We have absolutely no affiliation with any organization or cause other than our membership as individuals in A.A..

Our written materials are not official AA literature. They usually do, nevertheless, contain information from the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) and other conference approved literature owned and published by Alcoholics Anonymous. All A.A. material used identifies the source from which it is quoted. References in our documents to Big Book content exclude its stories. Included is all material from inside the front cover through page 164, plus Appendices I (Traditions) and II (Spiritual Experience).

You may reproduce materials of the Big Book Bunch, provided: a) that sources of materials (AA or the BBB) are identified, b) that no charge is made for the materials, and c) that they are not distributed by an organization or process that charges a fee. If you have corrections or improvements, please pass them on to us using the mailbox at the bottom.

Taking the steps. We have been advised on many occasions to "Take the steps!", but just how is this to be done? We have even seen lengthy tracts which claim to provide complete guidance to the alcoholic in navigating the steps. Our approach is simpler-we start with the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous), augment its teachings with portions of the 12&12 (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions), and add some trivial amounts of insight. In no way do we duplicate or offer a replacement to these two books.

Exclusive Focus upon Alcoholism. It may be helpful to look upon your program of recovey as a tripod, a pyramid shaped device composed of three supports coming together at the top. Or, you might prefer to think of the program as a three legged stool (the type we used to fall off of). The tripod, being composed of three triangles, is an amazingly stable structure. However, the program will collapse if any one of the three supports is removed.

The first support is the 12 steps, our process of recovery. Many people and organizations have discovered that the 12 steps which make up our A.A. program will bring about recovery from afflictions other than alcohol. Should you wish to apply the A.A. solution to some other problem, there is nothing to prevent you from exchanging its name with "alcoholism" as you read. However, we have not cast our material in the light of any problems other than alcohol for the very good reasons that to do so would:

  1. Dilute the effectiveness of our message for those who wish to recover from alcoholism.

  2. Impose upon us the burden of talking about something of which we know little from personal experience. Regardless of other problems we may have had as individuals, we do have one thing in common-we have recovered from the seemingly hopeless state of mind and body called alcoholism. With recovery from alcoholism we have direct and authoritative knowledge.

  3. Aside from being consistent with the singleness of purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous, there are profound reasons for people recovering with the 12 steps of A.A. to find a fellowship of persons with their same affliction. At last count one of our members had identified 37 different "__________ Anonymous" programs. Each of them can use the 12 steps, because these steps define a very specific and fool-proof process of spiritual recovery. They guide the member to find, accept, be directed by, be transformed by, and blossom with a Higher Power.

The 12 step process, therefore, provides the basis for the second support of the A.A. program - invocation of a spiritual power and spiritual growth.

Our third support in the tripod of recovery requires another alcoholic (the fellowship of alcoholics) with whom our recovering member identifies and works. The work is both passive (learning and being guided) and active (teaching and serving) with other alcoholics. Without the bonding of two or more alcoholics, the program simply is not effective. Our own experience has proven to us that the medicine of A.A. is potent and produces miraculous recoveries. We share with you, the alcoholic reader, how we have used A.A. medicine. If you are not alcoholic, you can get only two-thirds of a program from us. You owe it to yourself to find the right fellowship for your own situation in order to achieve full recovery.

Finally, to our fellow alcoholic, please note that our focus is upon taking the 12 steps. Although you will surely identify with us and A.A. literature, you also need much of the love and companionship of the A.A. fellowship in your community. Don't deny yourself the music of A.A. which you will find there. The spiritual miracle needs the music of the fellowship to awaken and flourish within you. Don't try to march on the High Road all by yourself. Get right in the middle of our band. Make music with us as we joyfully trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

On reading and writing. Reading the primary literature of AA is integral to our approach. Do the reading before the writing. If you are not sure of the definition of any word, please look it up in the dictionary. After all, if you don't know what the words mean, it might just be difficult to follow the direction they offer. If you have questions, discuss them with other sober alcoholics or us.

Taking the steps involves writing. You may have counted how many times the Big Book tells us that the Fourth Step is to be written. So, one of the reasons for beginning with writing on the prior steps is to get into the writing habit, thereby removing one of the obstacles we place in the way of the Fourth Step. Writing also helps you to organize your thinking. Furthermore, a piece of paper is useful in improving your communication with others. Finally, you will be amazed at the previously unknown facts that just show up on paper. Without a commitment to do the reading and writing we suggest, there is little point in proceeding further.


If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it - then you are ready to take certain steps. [Big Book, page 58, line 16]

So, there are at least two preconditions to taking the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first of these is that you want to be sober. The second is that you must take these steps until they take you.

After all, was agreed at the beginning we would go to any length for victory over alcohol. [Big Book, page 78, line 25]

.....we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience.....[Big Book, page 79, line 7]

If you came in touch with A.A. the way we did, you really don't need to want what we have right away. For now, it's enough that you don't want what you have, and that you're ready to go to any lengths to get rid of it! We boast that A.A. is a program of attraction, which it is. It seems, nevertheless, that many enter the doors of A.A. not because they are attracted to A.A., but because they are repelled from the alcoholic life they already have. So be it.

And why should I not take a drink? It is not our purpose to convince you to lay off alcohol. If your experience with alcohol hasn't yet taught what you need to learn, maybe you haven't graduated up to A.A. But. before you head for the corner pub, reconsider why you came in touch with us in the first place. Maybe your reasons for meeting up with A.A. are valid. Only you can know if you want what alcohol has to offer you more than you want what we have. Remember, though, that you must take all of what alcohol has to offer. You can't just skim the giggles or the oblivion off that next drink. You'll always take all it has in store for you every time. That's just the way it is. It will never change.

But, unlike the booze, A.A. is not an all-or-nothing proposition-at least, not at first. Take from us what seems right for you. And, as you manage to stay off the sauce and to come back, you are likely to find that the rest of A.A. seems pretty palatable, too. There are, of course, some tests you can take. The first one is to see if the external forces (such as a boss, judge, nagging wife, doctor, etc.) that propelled you into A.A. are not yet placated. Maybe you should hang out with us a little longer until they shape up. You may also wish to take the 20 questions offered by Johns Hopkins (the little yellow folder you can find in A.A. meetings, and copied at the end of this document). Read and understand, too, the first paragraph of chapter IV in our Big Book. Finally, if you want to convince your gut instead of your head, try staying off the sauce for a while.

If total abstinence for 30 days is easy for you, you just may not have a problem with alcohol. If, on the other hand, you experience environmental, physical, or mental pain without alcohol, give yourself a chance. Be honest.  We only miss the things we love - or which have us by the you-know-what. Persist in abstinence until the pain is gone. Then you will be in a position of neutrality from which you can choose with clarity and objectivity. As a last resort, you may feel compelled to do more research by drinking. But, please come back before your life is totally destroyed or you die.

If you are one of the fortunate ones, you don't need to be convinced that you want to stop drinking. You just want to know how. We'll show you. One of our dear members entitled his book, "There's More to Quitting Drinking Than Quitting Drinking."  This expression is totally true for the real alcoholic.  So, read on, friend.

Just what are you willing to do?

  1. Postpone your next drink of alcohol for the time remaining today?

  2. Attend at least one A.A. meeting each day for ____ days?

  3. Discontinue use of all other mind altering substances (besides alcohol) unless they are prescribed by at least one physician who is aware that you are trying to stay sober and who encourages you to do so?

  4. Seek out members of A.A. who seem to have good sobriety, and ask them daily for help in staying sober?

  5. Study the Big Book and the 12 & 12 of A.A. each day, and take the steps under direction?

  6. Set aside the natural reservations you have about following A.A. guidance.


Setting aside your killer reservations. Most people being introduced to A.A. have reservations as to whether they should adopt our program of recovery. Here is some of the mythology we often hear that keeps alcoholics away:

  1. I would rather not associate with a bunch of admitted alcoholics who have done (and might still do) some pretty sordid things. I am a cut above.

  2. I may not be alcoholic. I didn't drink as much as you A.A.s did, and I have never been in jail.

  3. My problems are with my environment (job, home, health, misfortune, etc.). Once these externals are fixed, I'll be fixed, too.

  4. I need to find out why I drank before I do all that step stuff.

  5. I am not prepared to shed all my self esteem by accepting the humiliation of admitting I am alcoholic. To the contrary, I need education and support which will bring me to believe in myself again.

  6. A.A. just might be a religious cult. All this God stuff is intrusive, ineffective, irrational and irrelevant.

While there may appear to be a superficial shred of truth to these statements, you will find that they are basically irrelevant and not factual. Hanging onto such reservations can kill you, if you are alcoholic. Why don't you let the odds be in your favor? Stay off the sauce, put your reservations on the back burner. and give yourself a chance to experience sobriety. We do not know of a single instance in which taking the steps of A.A. has ever injured anyone! If the results are not to your liking, you can always try something else and be a better person for having given yourself the chance. 

Reading: Big Book: Chapter 2, There is a Solution.

Just remember, keep on breathing, and don't take a drink of alcohol between breaths. Physical sobriety is that simple. But, seeing the promises of sobriety materialize in your life, and discovering true peace within yourself call for taking the steps. Are you ready now?

Helpful guidance is available from us for taking all the steps. Each of steps 1 through 9 builds upon the one(s) before, so take them in order-that is, 1, 2, 3, etc.. Steps 10 through 12 should each be taken from the first day we enter AA and every day thereafter until we join the Big Sky Group. Step 10 helps us to stop exercising our defects of character, thus preventing actions for which we might then have to make further amends. Step 11 guides us toward habitual prayer for God's direction. Step 12 inspires us to act in resonance with the principles of AA recovery and toward usefulness to others instead of being mired in self. Once we have taken all the steps, the primary goal of our sober journey becomes a reality-we awaken to the Spirit of God within.

We don't just leap into sublime sobriety. We get there one day and one step at a time. And, just as there is always someone on the step above you to give you a hand, it is usually a good idea for you to pull one or two others up to your current step. They can then give you a boost to your next step.

"How long will it take?", you say. Some pundits will tell you to take one step each year. We think that is going much too slowly for most of us. Plan on being well into your ninth step during your first year. Finishing that off and taking steps 10 through 12 will keep you occupied for the rest of your days. And what days they will be!

Are You Alcoholic?

Ask yourself the following questions and answer them as honestly as you can.

  1. YesNoDo you lose time from work due to drinking?
  2. YesNoIs drinking making your home life unhappy?
  3. YesNoDo you drink because you are shy with other people?
  4. YesNoIs drinking affecting your reputation?
  5. YesNoHave you ever felt remorse after drinking?
  6. YesNoHave you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
  7. YesNoDo you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking?
  8. YesNoDoes your drinking make you careless of your family's welfare?
  9. YesNoHas your ambition decreased since drinking?
  10. YesNoDo you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
  11. YesNoDo you want a drink the next morning?
  12. YesNoDoes drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
  13. YesNoHas your efficiency decreased since drinking?
  14. YesNoIs drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
  15. YesNoDo you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
  16. YesNoDo you drink alone?
  17. YesNoHave you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
  18. YesNoHas your physician ever treated you for drinking?
  19. YesNoDo you drink to build up your self-confidence?
  20. YesNoHave you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?

The above Test Questions are used by Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore, Md., in deciding whether or not a patient is alcoholic. They believe:

  • If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, there is a definite warning that you may be alcoholic.

  • If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are an alcoholic.

  • If you have answered YES to three or more, you are definitely an alcoholic.

Incidentally, most of us had scores much more impressive than these!

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